Flappy Bottles & Sweat

Flappy bottles, empty & full side by side

Hello and welcome to autumn.

As I said last week, to gain some writing momentum I’m going to simply share what I’ve learnt the previous week as well as anything else that seems relevant to running, fitness or health.

I’m playing with the format and may even make it into a proper newsletter, but for now I’ll simply list a bunch of stuff under some headings.

I hope something in here is useful or interesting.

Until next week.

db

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On your marks…

Here’s my sticker chart, haven’t I been a good boy.

I’ve been meaning to start documenting my running & health journey more regularly but the usual trifecta of imposter syndrome, motivation and knowing what to write got the better of me.

The thing I have been ¬†most self-conscious about is being another selfie and inspirational quote merchant who doesn’t add that much value. Given my sometimes very unmotivated mental state it felt hard to come up with original content that might be useful for others.

Finally, I’ve decided to get my finger out and JFDI.

To start with I’ll simply document what I’ve been up to and summarise any key takeaways or learning points in the hope that something I write is useful for others.

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OneNote & emoji ūüŹÉūüí®

desktop

OneNote 2016 with emoji in page and section titles

It turns out that OneNote supports emoji in page & section titles (notebook names too).

I had no idea, though¬†I shouldn’t be surprised really; they are just fancy Unicode characters after all.

Anyway, I’ve tested this on the full Windows desktop version, iOS and the¬†online web view. They consistently render as you’d expect for the operating system that you’re viewing them on. Continue reading

A Few of my Favourite Things 2016

Personal review posts of the outgoing year are becoming more popular and I enjoy reading them, particularly those produced by my peers.

However, when I wrote mine earlier this week I purposely left some stuff out as it didn’t seem to fit properly.

It’s a list of things that I’ve used – or removed – this year that have in some way made a high impact on my life.¬†Turns out they are mostly food or diet related so I’ve lumped them all together, into a little addendum to my main review.

Food & diet

The past couple of years have seen my diet change beyond recognition. Here’s a few of the dietary related things that have made a major difference to me.

Smoothies

I’ve raved about smooties in the past. When I started out using mine it was because they were¬†a great way of getting fresh fruit & veg into my diet by stealth. As my taste buds and the things my body craved for changed, I no longer needed smoothies for the stealth factor but due to the convenience they still play a large part of my day to day.

Most weekday mornings I’ll go out for a run or do some exercise before breakfast. Then, as I’m heading out of the door for the school run I’ll make a smoothie and that ‘meal’ means I’ll not need to eat again until lunchtime, even if I’m training really hard.

Mrs B spent the last 12 months or so politely saying no to having me make her one – read: making gagging noises¬†and muttering about ‘cold soup’ – but after actually trying one I now have to make 2 every morning!

They are quick, convenient and it’s one meal where you know exactly what has gone into it.

My breakfast recipe (makes a 600ml smoothie):

  • 2 desert spoons chia seeds, pre-soaked in water for at least an hour. I normally start this off the night before or just as I’m heading out for a run
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 frozen spinach lumps
  • very generous spoon of 100% peanut butter (buy the big tubs from places like Holland & Barrett)
  • frozen fruit / berries (tip: the fruit being frozen means the whole thing tastes more like a milkshake)
  • water

Chia Seeds

If you run, you’ve probably read Born to Run; it’s a really interesting book and a great yarn.

The real stars of the book are the Tarahumara for whom running long distances seems to be a way of life. In the book their magic recovery drink is mentioned which it turns out is based on Chia seeds. They look like mustard seeds but when soaked in water they start to turn the water gloopy and look a bit like mini frog spawn.

I was getting fed up with eggs for breakfast every day but looking to get more protein, so combined with the smoothie, Chia seeds seemed a no-brainer.

I can’t attribute a massive uptick in my pace after using them for a over a year, but I can say that they are a compact and easy to administer source of protein (and anecdotally my smoothies do keep me going all morning)

Lack of meat

As a family we stopped eating meat 3 months ago, though my eldest daughter has been veggie for about 6 years.

Because: reasons. I’ll not list them out here, but suffice it to say that they are varied and we’ve been considering going meat-free for a while.

I’ve been a raging carnivore all of my life, so much so that a meal without meat in it didn’t really seem like food. But as my diet improved through all of the wholefood cooking we were doing, meat started becoming optional.

The final push for me was wanting to get even better at cooking. Chucking some meat into a dish was starting to feel a bit like cheating with the salt; a season all. I figured if I could make lots of delicious meat-free meals then I was really getting better as a chef.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat meat again, I may also decide to eat fish. But for now I am 100% flesh-free (though not vegan).

Specifically: lack of cow

When experimenting with removing certain foods from our diets Рparticularly gluten Рwe also cut out cow based products, namely milk and *sob* cheese.

Cutting out the cow for me has been the highest impact change I’ve made. I definitely feel less bloated for it. If I forget & grab a rare latte I’ll definitely feel uncomfortable for the next few hours.

The two things I’ve ‘discovered’ that made¬†the cow-free transition possible are:

Green tea

I rarely drink anything else hot now. I even carry a few bags with me so if someone¬†offers me a drink I can have one. I like the taste, they pep me up. There’s not much more else to say really.

Feta Cheese

I eat a fair bit of this. It works great in salads, cooking and for a cheeky snack on a crispbread or something.

With Feta in my life I don’t miss hard cheese.

Consistent, non-faddy diet

Nutrition is a minefield. So many faddy diets, where to start?

I did a fair amount of reading, speaking to health professionals, other people who work their bodies hard, people who have lost weight, that random woman on an internet forum, personal trainers and the conclusion I drew was that low(er) carb, higher (good) fat diet was the way to go.

The more complex (and less processed) the carbohydrates are, the longer they’ll take to break down into¬†energy. You’ll get less energy spikes and feel fuller for longer. This is things like brown rice or pasta, as well as the carbs you can get from veg.

I no longer a default to have carbs in every meal and I rarely eat sandwiches.

For the record I’m not religious about anything I eat. If I am craving a pizza¬†I’ll have one, ditto a crisp sandwich or a cheeky pastie. But importantly it’s not anywhere near as often I used to and I’m doing so with my eyes wide open. I know what I’m eating and how to balance it out with more good stuff.

Also, don’t get me started on how difficult it is to eat well, particularly without carbs, when travelling!

Stuff

A few luxuries that have added value to my life this year.

Smoothie maker

(See above)

I use the cheapest machine I could find, the Breville one which you can pick up for around £20.

The particularly great thing about this one is that you do all of your whizzing in the bottle you’ll be drinking from. This means just the blade needs a quick rinse before you rush out of the door.

Oofos Recovery Footwear

(Posh flip flops)

They provide support under the arches and are supremely comfortable. Slipping these on after running for an hour or two is such a relief.

Merino Buff

Not new or revolutionary but I use mine constantly (I have 3). For running, walking, working in the garden and when travelling and not wanting to carry lots of extra stuff like hats and scarves.

Collapsible Lunch Boxes

(The silicone ones, something like this)

Such a genius idea, and well executed. Free up space in your bag after consuming the contents and Рequally as important Рtake up less space in the cupboard when not being used.


That was quick run-down of things that have had a positive impact on my life this year.

Have there been any things, whether dietary or material, that have have made a difference to your life? If so please feel free to share below.

2016 in Review

2015 ended with me having a panic attack in a restaurant car-park, somewhere in South Bristol.

It’s not as bad as it sounds and in hindsight I put it down to that end-of-year, exhausted-after-stumbling-across-the-finish-line thing where your body gives up a bit and¬†is more vulnerable.

But still,¬†it was a shame, because up to that point I’d been keeping chimp-boy in his cage¬†after making¬†a number of fundamental changes to my life, due to me spending much of 2014 being really ill.

I was seeing strong recovery across the board.

That is to say that this ‘wobble’ notwithstanding, I felt good, I was positive about 2016 and was feeling healthy,¬†energetic and motivated to¬†press ahead with my plans.

As 2016 draws to a close the plan is seemingly starting to work. My¬†life is in good shape. Business is good. I’m maintaining discipline and focus.¬†Things are balanced. I am grounded and apart from the occasional¬†off day that we all get from time to time, no further wobbles have occurred.

So, to round off the year please indulge me as I share a few things from my highlight reel. I also provide links to a few good books & podcasts that you might find interesting.

Whatever your plans are for 2017 I wish you good health and happiness and will leave you with this reminder from Aristotle (more recently adopted by Jocko Willink):

through discipline comes freedom

p.s. I also wrote a companion piece to this post, it mostly goes through some of the dietary changes I’ve made in the last year.

Business

Definitely a year of foundation building & consolidation but we also met sales and profit targets as well as managing to bring some new clients on board.

Siftware enters 2017 with a defined market position and a number of validated Рread: people have paid money for them Рproductised services and the internal processes to back these service offerings up.

I know who I want to be talking to and have a plan to start getting our core message Рnamely: bespoke web applications require ongoing maintenance and support; without this your business assets will become liabilities Рto them, via various channels.

My focus this year will be building a sustainable and partially automated sales funnel, converting promising leads into clients as well as keeping my growing team happy and motivated.

I¬†feel like it’s ours to lose at the moment and I’m chomping at the bit to get started.

Mastermind Group

I’ve been in a Mastermind group with Marc, Andy & Alex for just over a year. We have a call fortnightly,¬†share our goals & progress via Trello and bounce ideas around in a private slack group.

As the year progressed and we all got into our groove it started becoming invaluable.

The main benefit of a mastermind is accountability: you¬†look really lame if you don’t get around to doing the things you commit to. It’s¬†also great having people around to bounce ideas off before deciding on¬†a course of action.

In 2017 we’re splitting the year into four 12 week sprints and we plan to each ‘ship’ something during each sprint.

Writing & other content

I started the year determined to get better at writing, but without a firm plan.

Thankfully Marc’s 30 Day writing challenge came along in April and this really gave me the boost I needed to practice, get feedback and improve. It was a bit of a slog (I wrote a blog post every day in April) but¬†it set me up well for the rest of the year¬†and the writing I needed to get done professionally.

Another aim was to¬†get some experience creating video and screencasts. To this end I produced a number of video podcasts, as well as some OneNote tutorial screencasts. My largest video project was a 45 minute ‘talk’ for an online OneNote conference where I described my planning & journaling workflows.

I’ve learnt enough this year that I now feel confident that I could produce more video, should I need to. I know how to set the kit up, write a simple script, do the recording and, most importantly, how to edit. Not to pro levels evidently, but Good Enough should I need to do something like this again (though I’ve no immediate plans to do so).

In 2017 I’ll be writing a lot of content for work, so should get to keep the writing practice up. I will also be switching to doing my daily journaling with a pen and paper¬†as¬†my initial experiments show me that I¬†get into a better flow state when I’m not staring at a¬†computer screen.

Meta

  • Blog posts: 48
  • Video podcasts: 5
  • Screencasts: 3
  • Video presentation / talk: 1

My First Year of Running

(Not interested? You can skip this bit)

I started 2016 as a newbie middle-aged runner. The previous summer I’d completed couch to 5k, subsequently I’d ran a few Parkruns and to end 2015 I ran my first race, the Telford 10K and was delighted to finish at a time of around 55 minutes.

I was, however, also suffering from a bad case of the shin splints Рschool boy error: overdoing it on both distance & pace Рas well as realising the enormity of the task I had in front of me, having just secured a place in the 2016 London Marathon.

12 months on it’s safe to say I’ve had a good running year. I’m able to comfortably run 20+ miles a week on strong, injury-free legs and I race around once a month. My pace is also starting to increase as I consistently train.

Running works for me on so many levels. I particularly like hanging out with runners, on the whole they are a friendly bunch of disciplined, hard working people who regardless of age, race, gender or ability run not only because they enjoy it, but also because they want to improve some aspect of their performance.

Haruki Murakami in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running sums it up perfectly:

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. […] Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life – and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree

Another great benefit to taking my running seriously is¬†a default requirement to keep my body in the best condition possible. Ensuring that I continue to eat & sleep well, do stretches constantly and don’t duck out on training runs because reasons (cold, dark, tired, etc).

Anyway, as you probably guessed, running was an important part of my 2016.

Best run

Telford 10K – Dec 2016.

The first anniversary of my very first grown up race.

In January I set some arbitrary running goals, one being me to take 10 minutes off my first¬†10K time (55mins) by the end of the year.¬†As the year wore on ¬†it was looking decidedly unlikely that I’d hit this (PB was hovering at around 47 mins). But from Sept – Dec I trained a lot harder and at this race in December, my last one of the year, I managed to come over the line with a time of 44:57. Yay me \o/

Worst run

Bristol Half Marathon РSept 2016.

I’d ran two halves earlier in the year, as well as umpteen training runs that were longer than 13 miles¬†and I got a bit complacent. I spent the summer hardly running at all and only realised with 2 weeks to go that I had a race and figured: ‘ how hard can it be?’.

Turns out it was quite hard. I didn’t completely embarrass myself and finished comfortably under¬†2 hours, but I felt slow and weak. It was tough and most importantly I didn’t enjoy it, which was a shame as it was the first time¬†I had ever ran around¬†the city of my birth.

The upside is that I vowed to not let that happen again. If there’s a race in the calendar then I should be training properly for it. Since this race I’ve kept my training consistent and am now as strong¬†as I’ve ever been, even when compared to me at the peak of my marathon training in the spring.

Goals

In the coming year¬†I’ll be getting a lot more involved with my local club, doing more hilly & off-road running as well as generally mixing the training up more. I will be doing this carefully. Gradually introducing changes into my¬†training regime and then listening to my body before making further changes.

Specific goals:

  • Sub 21 minute 5K
  • Sub 43 minute 10K
  • Sub 1h 45 half

Meta

  • Miles ran: ~840 (1350 km)
  • 1 Full marathon (~40km)
  • 3 Half-marathons (~20km). PB: 1:49:03
  • 9 10Ks. PB 44:57
  • 10 Parkruns (5km). PB 21:55
  • Shoes: 2 pairs
  • Coldest training run: -6oC
  • Longest training run: 20.2 miles

p.s. I was also pretty pleased to get this:

Books

Some good books I’ve read this year.

Steven King’s Dark Tower series

I’d not read any Steven King before as horror is a big turnoff. But it was recommended to me by Steve, so I gave it a go. The best I can come up with to describe it is: mental, dystopian, cyber-fantasy western.

It’s worth noting that King spent nearly 20 years writing the series and it weaves in nods to his other books along the way. If you’re looking for some new fiction then give this a go. Try and read it before the movie comes out in 2017 (starring Idris Elba as Roland Deschain).

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

A great introductory wrapper to Stoic philosophy.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I don’t suffer with depression so was particularly nervous about reading something that sounds like it could be quite¬†dark, but am glad that I¬†gave it a go.¬†A few of us on Marc’s slack channel¬†all read this at around the same time and Charles Roper sums it up best in this blog post.

Reasons to Stay Alive is an ideal read for the creative soul, especially if you struggle with demons. It’s ideal if you consider yourself non-creative, too (if you really consider yourself non-creative, that’s a whole other issue we won’t go into here; suffice it to say: you’re mistaken.) If you don’t personally suffer, this book is a fine way to get a better understanding of those who do suffer. It’s the sort of book you can gift to someone when you’re struggling to explain what depression feels like; when you need for them to understand. It does the subject justice, in other words. That, right there, is an extraordinarily difficult feat. It is literally a life-saver.

The Brain Audit¬†by¬†Sean D’Souza

Go and take a look at your website. Does the copy talk about ‘we’ or ‘I’. Does it focus on your capabilities, your experience, your product’s features?

If so you’re doing it all wrong.

This book is short, easily digestible and is filled with actionable insights.

If you’re looking to write sales copy that converts then you should buy this book.

Podcasts

I’ve not listened to a huge number of¬†podcasts this year but honourable mentions should go to Zen Founder, Tim Ferris and Jocko Willink. Jocko’s interview of Tim Ferris is particularly recommended.

Summary

The foundations are in and I’m getting into my stride; it’s all to play for in 2017.

Keywords for 2016. Commitment, enjoyment, consistency, discipline.

OneNote Sync To OneDrive Explained

microsoft-onenote-sync

To get the most power out of OneNote you want to be able to synchronise the contents of your notebooks between devices and possibly share them with other people.

Cloud based save, sync or sharing is a standard requirement for most software these days and OneNote is no exception by offering such a feature.

However, due to the smart way that OneNote handles synchronisation and coupled with the fact that it’s generally called OneDrive sync – OneDrive of course being Microsoft’s cloud storage platform – confusion can ensue when people start to migrate to using OneDrive for notebook sync.

What they tend to do is copy their notebooks from wherever they used to store them and then paste them into their OneDrive folder. This seems pretty sensible because it’s called OneDrive sync, so we just put the files into OneDrive, right?

Logical, yes. Correct, no.

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OneNote Synchronisation Strategy

Setting up OneNote to send screenshots and print-outs to a local notebook

Setting up OneNote to send screenshots and print-outs to a local (non-cloud) notebook

OneNote does some clever things under the hood to provide you with pain-free multi-user synchronisation across your devices.

However, a common complaint is that it can be slow to update if the notebook has lots of large embedded PDFs or files.

This is pretty understandable if you take a minute to think about it. Adding a lot of new class notes or handouts and then syncing them over dodgy WiFi¬†(along with the rest of your class) is going to be slow; there’s a lot to update.

That said, I concede that you just want your technology to work, right? So, a good workaround is to be a bit more careful with how you organise your information.

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Getting Out of a Rut

Getting a cart out of a rut is hard.

The sides are steep and it’s hard to gain purchase.

Just a slight turn to either side is ineffective. The wheels won’t catch; they just hit the sides & bounce off.

To get it out you need to commit. Making a confident directional change and then giving it a big effort to pull.

That pull also needs to go on for some time. But if you keep at, especially at the moment where you’re holding all the weight right at the lip. It’s just one final heave and you’re out; you’re in control again!

From that point on you get to choose which direction to travel in. Continue reading